It’s that time of year again. Fall is on the way, Halloween fans are gearing up for the biggest event of the year, and American Horror Story is back on our televisions.
Well, it’s back on some of our televisions. As it turns out, a large portion of the show’s former fanbase chose to skip the premiere for the new season, with the show experiencing a 24% drop in viewers based on episode one of last season, and the worst season premiere for American Horror Story since 2012’s Asylum.
So what gives? Horror fans hadn’t even seen the show, and already they’d decided en masse not to bother with it.
There are lot of different factors at play that could have affected viewers’ interest in the show. There’s no escaping, for example, the new seasons’ political edge – titled Cult and paying direct reference to the rise of President Trump, this might have felt for many fans like a horror story that hits a little too close to home (especially for younger viewers, the demographic that dropped off the most from watching the premiere).
This, though, would only be a deciding factor if audiences were already well aware of the political focus of the premiere episode. Instead, we have to assume that something else is causing this apathy towards what was once one of the most highly regarded shows on television.
It’s hard not to point the finger of blame on the show’s anthology structure. A new story every season, with new characters, settings, and monsters, means that things stay fresh, but it also prevents audiences from developing an attachment with the core of the series.
Once a storyline has wrapped up, it’s over, and there’s no draw for audiences to come back to the show beyond a general love of its horror and storytelling chops. This essentially means that American Horror Story has to start all over again each season, with trailers and promotional materials attempting to show off enough to entice former viewers and newbies back with the promise of an intriguing story.
What’s particularly interesting is that this season does actually connect to the show’s wider mythos, with trailers focusing on the returning Twisty the Clown (just in time for IT to hit theaters and a wave of clown-themed horror enthusiasm to hit fans). This all seemed like a perfect storm for American Horror Story, but alas, something in the show’s premise this year just hasn’t managed to click with fans.
Perhaps this is the problem. Maybe, with IT looking to be one of this Fall’s biggest movies, there’s just not enough room for two scary clowns in audiences’ hearts. Competition could be killing American Horror Story, as horror lovers begin looking for their creepy kicks elsewhere.
After all, it’s not like we can ignore the elephant in the room. The horror TV game has changed significantly in the past year, thanks to one little Netflix show you might have heard of. Fans of creepy stories are waiting for something big that’s still on the horizon.
How can American Horror Story hope to compete for attention when we’re all desperately focused on the October return of Stranger Things?
Oh, cool, there’s a new season of American Horror Story on TV? That’s nice. We’re all far too busy stocking up on Eggos to notice.